Highlands

Contractor cleared of causing dust contamination at Inverness hospital

An Inverness hospital which had to postpone a number of operations due to dust contamination in its theatres has ruled out recent construction work as the cause.

Floors of the theatres in the main theatre complex at Raigmore Hospital were found to be contaminated by dust resulting in a number of postponements of surgery while the area was deep cleaned.

The theatres had been undergoing an upgrade by Graham Construction as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment of the hospital.

It was initially thought that construction work as part of the theatre upgrade had resulted in the increased level of dust being tracked into the theatre block.

However tests carried out by hospital authorities have revealed that the dust migration was not directly attributable to the adjacent refurbishment works.

Katherine Sutton, deputy director of operations at Raigmore Hospital, said: “We have been working very closely with Graham Construction.

“We’re satisfied that precautions taken by our contractor are proving effective and are confident that additional steps taken by both our clinical teams and our estate staff will ensure that theatres can begin to function as normal.”

Pat O’Hare, contracts director at Graham Construction, added: “We have wide experience in the refurbishment of operating theatres within live hospitals, and the isolated work areas we develop are essential to ensure operations can continue while this work is under way.

“It’s clear, following these tests, that the very strict protocols we have in place to prevent dust migration from areas under contamination are operating effectively.”

Elective surgeries have now resumed at the hospital following the cleaning process.

Councillors approve facelift plans for historic Highland hotel

Architects Covell Matthews’ impression of the finished hotel

The historic Kings House Hotel is set for a major facelift following Highland Council’s approval of plans to rejuvenate the Glencoe landmark.

Despite earlier objections from National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust, the project plans received the green light following a meeting of the planning committee on Tuesday.

James Allan of managing agents Bidwells said: “This is a superb result for our client who has been very focussed on providing a well thought out project which will bring employment to the area and encourage more visitors to this stunning part of Scotland.

“The plans for the hotel are in-keeping with the majestic environment and our client is very focussed on making this a sustainable project which complements their existing business interests elsewhere in Scotland, such as the Drymnin whisky distillery on the Morvern Peninsula.

“The de Spoelberch family recognised the hotel needs money and care and should be a place for people who enjoy sport and the outdoors. They consider this project as an impact investment, which is close to them and the things they love, whilst ensuring the proposal is economically viable.

“They have always been adamant that they didn’t want to do anything that would displease the community and would not have proceeded with something that was not supported.”

Construction work is due to start on the hotel as soon as possible with a projected completion for the beginning of 2019.

Green light for £130m Lochaber alloy wheels plant

Highland councillors have approved plans for an alloy wheel manufacturing facility at Fort William in Lochaber.

The facility, which involves an investment in excess of £130 million and will sustain and create around 570 jobs, was unveiled by industrial group GFG Alliance in September.

Lying to the west of the existing aluminium smelter in Fort William, the proposals for the Liberty Aluminium Lochaber Ltd facility include redevelopment of part of a former brownfield site on which a former carbon factory stood.

Architects Keppie Design said the factory buildings have been designed to look like aluminium ingots (or slabs).

Councillors approved the significant planning proposals subject to a number of detailed conditions relating to transport and traffic management; environmental management; and historical and archaeological management among other conditions.

Chair of the council’s south planning applications committee, Councillor Jimmy Gray, welcomed the decision as a “huge turnaround for the Highlands and in particular Lochaber”.

He added: “There are very few areas in Scotland and indeed the UK where we could see such a dramatic investment in manufacturing and industry. This is the only aluminium smelter left in the UK so this is of national significance. There is a real potential for Liberty to invest in Fort William and Lochaber and we have a whole change agenda in this development that provides huge opportunities.

“I would like to commend and give thanks to our local planning team and the officers involved who processed and prepared this major planning application. This was an extensive piece of work and they have done an excellent job.”

Lochaber leader, Councillor Andrew Baxter, added: “This is a once in a generation opportunity and Liberty Group should be applauded for this contribution to the economy and community. Up to 400 direct jobs will be created at the facility which will also help secure the existing 170 jobs at the smelter.”

Glenmorangie reveals plans for new still house

Whisky producer Glenmorangie has announced plans for a new still house as part of a multi-million-pound expansion of its distillery in Tain.

The Highland firm has submitted plans for the facility and subject to approval, aims to start work this year with completion scheduled for 2019.

Funded by a proposed multi-million-pound investment from its owner The Glenmorangie Company, the expansion would be designed to position the Highland Distillery for ever-greater success.

The proposed new still house would form part of the distillery’s 175th anniversary celebrations while allowing Glenmorangie to increase capacity in line with rising global demand. The planned new building would work in tandem with the existing still house and showcase two more of Glenmorangie’s signature copper stills, the tallest in Scotland. Alongside, a separate building is proposed to provide additional mashing and fermentation facilities.

Marc Hoellinger, President and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “It is a testament to the success of Glenmorangie, and to the increasing appreciation of our whisky creators’ vision and expertise, that we are able to plan with confidence for the future. We believe the proposed investment will support the distillery’s growth and ensure that many more discerning single malt whisky drinkers can discover the delights of our exceptional Highland single malt Scotch whisky.”

Work starts on £5.7m Highlands creative hub

Work is underway on a “game-changing” transformation of former Inverness school buildings to give the Highlands its first creative hub.

The initial £1.2 million project is the first phase of a wider £5.7m scheme to transform the Midmills buildings (once part of the Inverness Royal Academy and later Inverness College but now empty) into a new Inverness Creative Academy.

Work on one building, which will provide high quality, affordable workspaces for 39 artists and makers, is expected to be complete by the summer of 2018.

Wasps Artists Studios, which is leading the project, is also fundraising for work on a second building which would provide exhibition, performance and events space, a public café, workshop areas and offices for business working in the creative industries.

Matt Sillars, who will be running a community-based photographic initiative called the Inverness Darkroom at Midmills, said: “The arts community has been hoping that Wasps would set up a major centre in Inverness for years, so the enthusiasm was overwhelming when it was announced.”

The message was reinforced by Kirsten Body, a member of the local Arts Steering Group, who said: “I was involved in the initial demand study for a creative hub in 2015 and was struck by the responses we got – there is a desire to feel part of a wider creative community and for the possibility of more collaboration with other creative professionals.

“There is undoubtedly a strong need for a focused, vibrant space where people can come together to share ideas.

“I’m really keen to see this new hub as a place that caters for events, provides networking opportunities as well as a gallery space for emergent contemporary artists to showcase their work and take risks. The Midmills building has huge potential to function as a production centre and true meeting place highlighting the wealth of creative talent from our area.”

Lindsay Dunbar, of rural theatre innovators Play Pieces Arts, added: “I really welcome the exciting development of the Creative Academy. Play Pieces Arts has run a successful programme of events in Inverness throughout the years however we are often placed in a vulnerable position due to venue availability as well as limited capacity spaces.

“The creative industry hub, as well as potential performance space, would be a game-changer for not only Play Pieces Arts but for the emerging and established makers of all art forms who want to base themselves in the Highlands.”

How the atrium section of the building will look once completed

As one of the largest developments of its kind outside the Central Belt the Creative Academy is expected to play a valuable economic role by supporting jobs and providing new business opportunities.

Tenants could include everything from visual artists, theatre groups and craft makers to media companies or businesses at the cutting edge of the digital arts.

Wasps has had great success with similar hubs such as South Block in Glasgow.

The Creative Academy will be a first for the Highlands, helping the region tap into the growing importance of the creative industries, which generates £3.7 billion a year for the Scottish economy and provides 73,600 jobs.

This is in line with HIE’s ambition for the creative sector to account for 7% of the economic activity – equalling the Scottish average.

Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive officer, said: “Scotland is a powerhouse for the arts, craft making and the wider creative industries.

“But people wanting careers, or to build businesses, in these sectors have faced major obstacles in the Highlands because of an acute shortage of quality workspace and of hubs that allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.

“The Creative Academy has a great deal of support from the large creative community in and around Inverness.

“We are very proud that this will be one of the largest projects of its kind in the whole of Scotland and we hope it will enable creative people from all across the Highlands fulfill their ambitions and dreams.”

The project supported by The Highland Council, HIE, Creative Scotland, Inverness City Heritage Trust and McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Limited.

The Phase 1 work is being carried out by Elgin-based Robertson Northern.

James Gibbs, area manager for HIE, said: “Wasps is a social enterprise with an excellent track record of bringing economic benefit to cities. This facility will allow workers in the creative industries sector to share skills and ideas and promote collaboration and innovation.

“HIE assisted Wasps’ development to help grow a strong creative cluster in Inverness and bring new economic activity to the city centre.”

Clive Gillman, Director, Creative Industries at Creative Scotland, added: “Wasps have built a strong sustainable model for supporting our creative communities the length and breadth of Scotland. We are proud to have helped them on that journey and especially through partnerships such as that in Inverness, which will see a significant building brought back to life to support the rich creative community in and around the city of Inverness.”

Morrison Construction’s Nucleus project wins major architectural awards

The newly-opened £20 million Nucleus building in Wick, built by Morrison Construction, took home two awards at the inaugural Architects’ Journal Architecture of the Year Awards this month.

The building, designed by Reiach and Hall and home to the national archive for the civil nuclear industry, won Public Building of the Year and the Editor’s Choice of the Year awards.

The prestigious awards celebrate design excellence in UK architecture across 23 different categories at an event held in London.

Morrison Construction managing director for the Highland business, Donald Mclachlan, said: ”We are delighted at the recognition this wonderful facility has achieved on a national stage.

”Our highly-skilled teams work extremely hard to deliver excellent facilities to benefit the communities they are built in many years into the future.”

Architects’ Journal Architecture Awards judges commented: “This is an exceptional piece of architecture materially, aesthetically and functionally: it’s made well, looks stunning and fulfils, indeed exceeds, its brief – effectively reimagining what an archive building can be in both form and function.”

Nucleus facility was opened earlier this year and includes a large public area, reading room and community space.

More than 70 years’ worth of information and up to 30 million digital records are held in the facility, which also contains local archives dating back to the 16th century.

Mixed-use Inverness city centre plans lodged

Capital Developments Ltd has submitted a planning application for a new residential and commercial development in Inverness in partnership with the Highland Housing Alliance and the Highland Council.

The development at 79 Academy Street will add to the regeneration of a gateway to the city centre to potentially deliver four commercial units on the ground floor with 40 affordable homes to rent for local people.

Under the plans, 17 flats will be allocated for mid-market rent by the Highland Housing Alliance and 23 flats to be allocated for rent by the council.

Highland Housing Alliance chief executive, Gail Matheson, said: “Today a planning application has been submitted to the Highland Council for a new mixed use development that will reinvigorate Academy Street, a historic gateway to the city centre. 79 Academy Street will be  a landmark development for the city of Inverness, comprising 40 new homes for rent further opening it up to  city centre living.

“The new scheme builds on the success of our 2016 Academy Street development that delivered 17 National Housing Trust homes along with 14 rented homes for the Highland Council. Four commercial units will potentially add new business opportunities and the regeneration of Academy Street. Subject to planning, we hope to start on-site in Spring 2018 with completion by Autumn 2019.”

Bill Nelson of Capital Developments said: “The building, previously tenanted by Farm Foods, has been unoccupied for quite some time and is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Consequently, we are delighted to instruct our project architects NORR to submit a planning application to replace this building with a modern and attractive mixed use residential and retail scheme, that we believe will greatly enhance this part of Academy Street. If planning permission is granted we believe this significant investment will help revitalise the city centre.”

Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: “This is good news for Inverness where there has been a shortage of affordable housing. The development is especially welcome given that it will contribute to regeneration of the city centre, providing new retail units on the ground floor as well as quality accommodation above.”

Blog: West Link Road opens in Inverness

westlinkinverness.1203x0-isA blog on Inverness by the Scottish Cities Alliance featuring The West Link as it opens to traffic and Inverness Airport Business Park’s opportunities.

A vital piece of infrastructure has opened in Inverness which will boost economic growth and ease congestion.

The West Link Road is an ambitious project which completes the link between the Dores roundabout and the A82 at Torvean, crossing the River Ness. It is an ambitious project which will deliver a greatly improved infrastructure to support the future development, growth and prosperity of Inverness and the Highlands.

The West-Link will reduce congestion in the city centre, enable housing development and associated developer contributions and provide additional capacity over the River Ness will remove unnecessary traffic from the city centre, along with fumes and noise. The link will make the city centre a more pleasant place for shoppers and pedestrians.

The new link will:

  • Help achieve the greater ambition for the City of Inverness and will enable further development
  • Bring a Benefit to Cost Ratio of nearly £4 of benefit to every £1 of public investment
  • Form part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315 million investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highland and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

The Scottish Cities Alliance’s Pitch Book features investment potential in Inverness.

One of the potential investments is at Inverness Airport Business Park which is a planning approved and master planned mixed-use commercial property development with approximately 275 acres of land available (over the long term) for occupancy across four key Development Zones – Phase 1, Hotel (Plot 1), Airside and Railside.

iapb.976x0-isThe Co-op recently announced plans for a new, bespoke distribution centre to be located at Inverness Airport Business Park (IABP). The new development will support the Co-op’s future store expansion and delivery network for stores in the North of Scotland when it opens in the late summer of 2018. The new IABP distribution centre will also ensure continued employment for the 40 staff at the site, which is located in the nearby Dalcross Industrial Estate, with potential for the creation of new jobs as the site develops following opening.

The new facility will continue to be serviced by double decker vehicles as opposed to single decker, resulting in fewer journeys reducing CO2 emissions and eliminating 1,800 road miles per day, making the Co-op’s logistics operation in Scotland a lot more environmentally friendly.

James Campbell, IABP chairman, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Co-op to Inverness Airport Business Park and look forward to working with them on the delivery of their new 12,000 sqft purpose-built distribution facility.

“Securing the Co-op as our anchor tenant very much sets the tone for what we are looking to achieve at IABP and the new facility is widely regarded as a ground-breaking development for Inverness and the Highlands. IABP provides occupiers with excellent transport links and connectivity by air, road and soon to be rail, with the proposed introduction of the Inverness Airport (Dalcross) Station.

“It’s a very exciting time for IABP and we are encouraged to see the continued growth and success at Inverness Airport and Tornagrain New Town as well as the major transport infrastructure projects already underway on the A96 and A9 trunk roads.”

Hundreds of new Inverness homes recommended for approval

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

Proposals for 767 new homes in Inverness look set to be granted planning permission by councillors next week.

Tulloch Homes has proposed building the mix of houses and flats in three phases on land between Dores Road and the River Ness.

The area, close to Inverness’ new West Link Road, was first allocated for housing in the 1980s.

Highland Council planning officers have recommended that councillors on the south planning applications committee approve the project.

Architects at BakerHicks begin full concept design for new Inverness prison

HMP Highland (front) (image courtesy of BakerHicks)Multi-disciplinary design and engineering company BakerHicks has started work on the full concept design for the new £70 million HMP Highland in Inverness.

The initial designs by BakerHicks, which were used to achieve Planning Permission in Principle, are now being developed by their design team to a point that the project can be tendered for construction.

The contract for the concept design, which includes the preparation of all ITT Documentation, was awarded to BakerHicks through the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) framework on a multi-discipline basis for Architectural, Civil & Structural, Mechanical & Electrical and Principal Designer Services.

The new prison includes a central Roundhouse as a focal point for visitors, the family centre and staff facilities, with the main building designed to reflect the river Ness. Using the long winding wave through the site means that, from eye level, the building can never be viewed in its entirety, making it less oppressive to pedestrians or prison visitors. The design is complemented by landscaped garden courtyards, which BakerHicks is partnering with TGP Landscape Architects on for landscape design services.

Laura James

Laura James

Laura James, head of Scotland at BakerHicks, said it is important that the best-in-class design also works well with the operational requirements of the prison.

Laura added: “We’re now taking our initial design and adding in detailed floor plans and internal layouts to the areas allocated on the Step One design.

“We’re working especially closely with the SPS team through a series of workshops to maximise the use of space and ensure the designs are appropriate for how the prison is managed and how it interacts with the local community.”

HMP Highland will serve the Highlands, Islands and Moray areas and hold up to 200 offenders in purposely designed accommodation units. It has double the size of the existing prison which it is intended to replace. It will be the first new prison in the Scottish Highlands for more than a century.

The project is being developed taking full consideration of the Highland Council’s Sustainable Design Guide which has been prepared to encourage agents, architects, builders and clients to opt for buildings that are designed to respond to the local landscape and climate. The SPS Three Step Process has been used, encompassing: Step One – Initial Concept and site investigation; Step Two – Planning Permission in Principle; and Step Three – Preparation of ITT Documentation. BakerHicks has been working with the commercial property firm Colliers International throughout.

BakerHicks has considerable experience in the prisoner and custodial sector, having previously completed projects for HMP Perth and the Young Offenders Institute at Polmont.